My opinion may be biased but I think I have the best office in the world.
It doesn’t matter how well or bad the day has started (and sometimes it does happen that I get out of bed stepping onto the wrong foot) I will eventually end up with a grin on my face and a sense of satisfaction; be it for just feeling lucky to be there or for how the day went.
Take today for example. It started well: when the alarm went off I felt rested after a night’s sleep, despite the fact that I went to bed late and exhausted and the week has so far been a wind whirl of non-stop physical effort. Not feeling tired; that’s a good start and of course the sun was shining outside.
As it does here for what must be like 360 days per year. It’s hard to have a bad start in the Tropic of Cancer.
Some may argue this last point too but for me the sun in the sky is a good reason to be in a good mood.
A bad start of the day for me is normally traffic: I have to drive to the office; in fact I have to cross the whole town.
I acknowledge that this may not be the worst part in the world for bad driving and traffic but it is pretty bad at its best and mostly dangerous. So if I wake up tired and I am surrounded by bad drivers then it is a bad start of the day.
But today the day started well.
“How beautiful!” I break the silence in the car as I drive through the gate and the landscape opens up right in front of us. My two clients are with me.
At the end of the steep drive there is a beach and the flat sea is shimmering under the sun.
Today is the 3rd day of an Open Water Diver course. I am the diving instructor. I am with two young lads who for the first time today are going to experience diving in the open water.
The open water: that magic and mysterious world under the surface of our beautiful oceans and seas that even after over 10 years from my first breath under, still manages to awe, surprise and excite me.
Logistics sorted and a few litres of sweat later we are boarding our boat.
Normally a ride to a nearby dive site can take between 20 to 30 minutes. Today it took a bit longer. Not just because we were heading to a site that was further away (and one of my favourites) but also because we had a diversion.
Diversions in this job can mean many things: unexpected problems with the boat engine, a check by the coast guard or like in our case today, spotting some wildlife.
Dolphins. Hundreds of them all around us an in a very good mood for a show.
Dolphins are like fireworks for me: it doesn’t matter how many times I have seen them I always get excited like a child at a funfair.
The diversion means I will have a late lunch today but it doesn’t bother me.
Soon we are in the water. My element.
It’s clear visibility today. It’s not always like that. It is indeed a good day.
I glance at my students. They are taking it all in: the schools of snappers against the blue column of water, the small box fishes with their inquisitive eyes and their clumsy way of moving about, lazy porcupine fish resting on beds of coral, clown fish in their usual grumpy attitude. A cuttlefish presents us with a graceful dance and a display of colours while the moray eels pretend to sing in their rhythmic opening and closing of their mouths.
It’s the end of the first dive and in no time also of the second one. It’s actually been a few hours but time flies.
We had some really cold currents today but it’s not long before I warm up again. Soon I am sweating again while unloading equipment and heavy cylinders from the boat.
That’s the gym session done for the day, believe me.
Debriefing, paperwork and it’s time again to go back to the base.
It is not a common thing to do for me but today I am driving my students back home.
Within a few minutes I have nobody to talk to. They are fast asleep.
I glance at them briefly. I am pretty sure I can see a grin on their face.
As for me I haven’t stopped grinning all day.
I am a diving instructor.
******** Fact sheet ***
How do you become a diving instructor?
- First you need to learn to dive
- Then you need to learn to dive well and you also need to dive a fair amount of times.
- You also need to learn that diving is not just about yourself so you must learn how to rescue other divers
- Then you also need to learn some fundamental theory including the physiology and physics of diving
- Last but not least you must learn how to teach
PADI has an educational program that covers all that
What do you need?
- you need to be comfortable on and in the water – but I gather you had already guessed that
- you need to be good with people; in fact you need to like being with people.
- you need to be able to smile and look happy even when inside you have a frog gnawing you. Those who come to you are normally doing it because they want to have fun.
- you need to leave your problems at home, you can’t get distracted
- you need to care for people’s satisfaction and safety more than the money. The money comes if you are good, and for good I mean “business” good.
- you need to have a cool head under pressure. Things can go bad. You cannot run away or sit and cry; if you do they go from bad to seriously bad.
- you need to be a good role model: people look up to you and watch you more than they listen to you.
This is not an exhaustive list, these are just the first things that spring to my mind when I think about what it takes.
Don’t get me wrong, you may find instructors out there who have managed to qualify without all that. It is all well possible.
These are the qualities of fellow instructors I look up to.